The starting point of our 7-day Alaska Cruise with Princess Cruises was Vancouver – in the very west of Canada. Here we landed at the airport at about 10 o’clock in the morning and then had a good 5 hours to explore the city before we had to check in on our cruise ship 🙂
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Things to know about Vancouver
Vancouver has a population of about 630,000 and is located in the state of British Columbia on the west coast of Canada. The metropolitan area is home to more than 2.4 million people, about half of the population of British Columbia. The city was officially founded on 6 April 1886. The city is named after british captain George Vancouver, who explored and measured the region at the end of the 18th century.
Against the rugged Pacific, the city is protected by the offshore island of Vancouver Island. Located north of Clark Drive with its state-of-the-art container terminal, the port is The largest seaport in Canada and the second largest seaport on the west coast of North America after Los Angeles. It is also interesting that Vancouver is the third most important location in the North American film industry, behind Los Angeles and New York. Movies such as Deadpool, X-Men, Supernatural, Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey were shot here, which is why the city is often referred to as “Hollywood North”.
Vancouver is best known for its scenic seaside location with its towering mountains in the background. The three local mountains Grouse Mountain (1,231 metres), Mount Seymour (1,449 metres) and Mount Strachan (1,454 metres) are located on the north shore of burrard Inlet, directly opposite the city. According to the latest Mercer study, Vancouver ranks fifth in the world when it comes to quality of life among major cities.
Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Vancouver
Even though Vancouver is the third largest city in Canada, we don’t think it has a lot of sightseeing to offer – at least as far as the city center is concerned. We had expected it to be different. On the other hand, this was quite practical, as we only had a few hours to explore the city before we had to check in on our cruise ship. So we set out to explore Vancouver on our own.
Canada Place – The cruise port in Vancouver
Canada Place is located in the heart of Vancouver’s downtown, right on the Harbourfront, and is a kind of multi-purpose facility. In addition to the Canada Place Cruise Ship Terminal, it also houses The FlyOver Canada, a Convention Centre, the Pan Pacific Hotel, the Port Authority and the World Trade Centre.
The Canada Place Cruise Ship Terminal is considered the most passenger-friendly cruise port in North America and is the starting point for cruises through the scenic Inside Passage and Glacier Bay National Park of Alaska, as it is the closest cruise port off Alaska. There are a variety of ships with different departure dates and itineraries departing from Vancouver. Cruise companies sailing from Vancouver include Celebrity Cruises, Disney Cruise Lines, Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean International and many others.
The historic Gastown district
Gastown is the “old town” of Vancouver and is considered the founding district of the city. The name comes from the British settler John “Gassy Jack” Deighton, who in 1867 was the first to open a pub for local lumberjacks. Today, along Water Street or Cordova Street, there are countless restaurants, bars, clothes and souvenir shops. The most famous attraction, however, is the world’s first steam clock, which can be found on the corner of Cambie Street and Water Street. The street clock with dials on all four sides has five steam pipes that play a melody every quarter of an hour.
The Seawall Water Walk in Coal Harbour
From Canada Place Pier you can take a nice walk along the Seawall Water Walk. Here is the trendy District of Coal Harbour, from which many harbour tours, whale watching tours and (round) flights with seaplanes depart. Almost every minute, the planes take off or land here on the water. That’s really interesting to look at. There’s also the marina, restaurants, bike rental stations and the Vancouver Convention Centre.
The Chinese Garden in Chinatown
Located between Pender Street and Keefer Street, the Chinese quarter is the largest Chinatown in Canada and one of the largest in North America. In addition to Chinese culture, cuisine and architecture, you can experience great festivals here. Because of the large chinese presence in Vancouver – especially represented by first-generation hong Kong immigrants – the city is called “Hongcouver.”
We walked briefly through the Vancouver Chinatown Millennium Gate on W Pender St. and then visited The Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Gardens. This Chinese garden consists of a freely accessible park and a garden, which is subject to a charge. Since we didn’t have that much time and 14 CAD as an entrance fee also found quite expensive, we only went to the freely accessible part of the park. This is quite manageable, but with the small water lily pond also very nicely laid out.
The English Bay Beach & the bronze sculpture “A-maze-ing Laughter”
English Bay Beach is located in the west of the city. A rather wide beach, but we didn’t really like it.
On the other hand, we found the bronze sculpture A-maze-ing Laughter super interesting. The sculpture, which consists of 14 figures, each about three metres high and weighing more than 250 kilograms, was designed by Chinese artist Yue Minjun and erected in Morton Park in the West End district in 2009. The different statues show the artist’s own image “in a state of hysterical laughter”. As part of the installation, an inscription reads: “May this sculpture arouse laughter and joy among all who experience it.” And she really has, because almost every visitor has placed himself right next to a statue and tried to imitate the facial expressions and gestures 😉
A little further south in Sunset Beach Park, one can still find the “Engagement Rings“, a series of sculptures by the artist Dennis Oppenheim. These diamond engagement rings can also be found at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, San Diego, Ruoholahti (Finland) and Leoben in Austria.
The view from the “Vancouver Lookout”
Before we went on the ship, we wanted to see Vancouver again from above. The Vancouver Lookout, which is located near Canada Place Pier on Hastings Street, is the best way to do this. With a glass elevator, you go about 170 meters up to the observation deck, which offers a fantastic 360-degree view of the city center, the sea and the mountains. Many of the city’s attractions are presented along the panoramic windows using pictures and texts. From up here we had a great view of our cruise ship Royal Princess 🙂
The Vancouver Lookout is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. during the summer months from May to October, and from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. in winter. Admission for adults is currently 18.25 CAD.
A map with all the Tourist Attractions in Vancouver
On the following Google Maps map we have mapped all the major sights in Vancouver:
Our conclusion on Vancouver
Overall, we have to say that Vancouver couldn’t really inspire us. The location is beautiful and we also had really great weather, but in the city there is also a lot of dirt and many visible social problems. The proportion of homeless and drug addicts, especially in downtown, is alarmingly high. There are few really interesting buildings and the sights are rattled off relatively quickly. The harbour promenade and the historic District of Gastown are beautiful, but otherwise we found the city center quite unspectacular. We certainly didn’t see everything because of the short time, but next time we would rather go out to the surrounding area or to Vancouver Island, because there it should be really beautiful!
At 4 p.m. we checked in on our ship Royal Princess and started our cruise towards Alaska 🙂
Prepaid SIM Card for Canada & the USA
Normally, we always use the free Wi-Fi networks at the airport, in Starbucks stores, at McDonald’s or in hotels. Somewhere there is somehow always a network 🙂
But in the small towns of Alaska, of course, it’s a little more difficult. Therefore, as with our last road trip through California, we decided to get a prepaid SIM card for our time in the USA on Amazon. With 50 GB of traffic for 10 days, it cost 27.99 euros on T-Mobile’s 4G LTE network – and the good thing is that this card is also valid for the network in Canada! After receiving the card by post, you must activate it online in advance and indicate when the SIM card should be valid. This is very simple and in hindsight it was a great investment, because so we were always mobile reachable and could always look at our pre-create Google MyMaps maps, check emails or write Whatsapp.
So if you are looking for a good prepaid card, you will find many good offers here on Amazon.
Starbucks Global Icon City Mug of VancouverWe are collecting the Starbucks Mugs from the cities and islands we visit on our travels. Unfortunately, not every city that has a Starbucks store with an own mug. But if the city has an own mug we like to collect them as a souvenir. We only collect city mugs from the "Global Icon Series", which was released in 2008. You can see our complete collection here: Starbucks - Our collection of Mugs from the Global Icon Series
Vancouver has several Starbucks stores and also its own cup 🙂
All travelogues from our Alaska CruiseOur cruise on the Royal Princess took us for a week along the coast from Vancouver north to Whittier (Anchorage). On this great cruise adventure around the northernmost state of the USA we visited the cities of Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway. We also took a scenic cruise in Glacier Bay National Park and College Fjord with breathtaking views of Alaska's glaciers.
Day 1: Visa – Entry to Canada (eTA Application) & to the USA (ESTA Application)
Day 1: Vancouver – Tourist Attractions, Things to Do & Photo spots (Canada)
Day 1: Royal Princess – Our ship for the Alaska Cruise
Day 2: Day at Sea
Day 3: Ketchikan – Totemp poles, bald eagles & salmon (USA)
Day 4: Juneau – Things to do in the capital of Alaska (USA)
Day 4: Juneau – Orcas and humpback whales at Whale Watching (USA)
Day 4: Juneau – A trip to mendenhall Glacier (USA)
Day 5: Skagway – A walk through the old gold mining town (USA)
Day 5: Skagway – Musher’s Camp & Dog Sled Adventure (USA)
Day 5: Haines – Bears and bald eagles on the Chilkoot River (USA)
Day 6: Glacier Bay National Park – A Scenic Cruise in Alaska (USA)
Day 7: College Fjord – A Scenic Cruise & Arrival in Whittier (USA)
Day 8: Anchorage – Seward Highway & Alaska Wildlife Center (USA)